ProTour Purgatory

Image source:

Edward Hopper frittered away gratuitous amounts of time watching six-day races in Madison Square Garden in search of inspiration. Undoubtedly, the recently concluded Tour de France has attracted his attention whilst floating around the ether. I’ve been possessed by the caustic spirit of Edward Hopper today, and a 2006 version of Nighthawks has been channelled through me via Photoshop. Click on the image to start the sequence of panels…

Rage Against the Machine

July 20, 2006. Floyd goes for a ride.
Graham Watson photo

Because you just can’t make this stuff up…

“He’s in every aspect the toughest man, ever,” Amber says seriously. “Physically tough, mentally tough, he’s just one tough bitch.”Amber Landis

After Floyd Landis regained the lead of the Tour de France at the top of L’Alpe d’Huez he decided that he wanted a beer to celebrate the moment. On the road down to his hotel, his team car pulled over and the American traded a yellow jersey for a six-pack of beer with a spectator.OLN

“He told me he was going to go out in the morning and do something big,” Amber Landis told me as she watched her husband begin the final descent of the Col de Joux-Plane. “He doesn’t say that very often, but when he does, he always goes out and does it.” — Amber Landis talking to journalist Martin Dugard

As he told his trainer, Allen Lim, the morning after tumbling from first to eleventh place, “I’m going to go apeshit on them.” — Journalist Austin Murphy

Somehow, word got out in the peloton that the Phonaks were going to try something preposterous. By doing so, they would be inflicting suffering on the rest of a Tour-weary bunch. Which explains why a number of riders coasted up to Landis before the first mountain, imploring him not to attempt something so foolhardy. As Landis would later recall, “I just told ‘em, Go drink some Coke, ’cause we’re leaving on the first climb if you want to come along.’” — Journalist Austin Murphy

“Get me to the bottom of the first climb,” Floyd Landis told his pretofore listless Phonak teammates, “and then I’ll see you later.” — Journalist Martin Dugard

When the peloton reached the first foothills Floyd put the hammer down. He went way too fast for so early in the stage. Although his competition initially reacted, one by one they seemed to satisfy themselves that he’d gone mad. Landis shot them a few well-placed, wild-eyed glares over the shoulder to cement the impression. — Writer Dave Shields

If you had a chance to watch the stage on television, you might have seen Landis catch up with a small group that had launched an earlier breakaway. He lingered awhile, talking one-by-one with the riders. What you saw there was simple horse-trading. Landis was asking for volunteers, riders who might be interested in working with him to make the attack a success. He was willing to pay for that help, roughly $5,000 dollars from some reports. But nobody took him up on the offer, because the race is so wide open that Landis has few friends in the peloton. So he shot away as if suddenly bored, destined to ride alone all day, come what may. — Journalist Martin Dugard

“When Floyd went, I just thought ‘what the hell is he doing?’,” the Australian told Cyclingnews. It tactically didn’t seem like a sensible thing to do, but I didn’t know he had the legs like that… nobody did!”Cadel Evans

“At T-Mobile, we had no tactics today. We just tried to hang on as long as possible. We thought the last climb would be the decisive one. Klöden had problems from the start; me too. We both struggled today. We never expected Landis to do so well today.”Michael Rogers

“They didn’t let him go, but he was just so strong in the beginning,” said Schleck. “We didn’t think that he could make it too the end. But he made it to the end, so he’s a fucking strong rider. Chapeau for Landis!”Frank Schleck

“That has never happened in the Tour, and it’s never happened in any other race I’ve done before - and it never will,” Horner said. “It was an epic scenario, which I’ve never seen in my entire career.”Chris Horner

  • 5 hours 23 minutes and 36 seconds.
  • Covering 200.5 kilometers (130 km alone in the wind).
  • At a speed of 37.175 km/hr.
  • Averaging 281 watts when moving for the whole ride and 318 watts over the last two hours.
  • Averaging 324 watts while pedaling for the whole ride and 364 watts over the last 2 hours.
  • At an average cadence of 89 rpm.
  • Transferring 5,456 Kjoules of energy to his Cycleops PowerTap.
  • Taking, no joke, a total of 70 water bottles (480 ml each) from the car to keep himself cool and hydrated.
  • Attacking about a quarter of the way up the Col des Saisies for 30 seconds at 544 watts, which settled into a 5-minute peak of 451 watts, which continued for 10 minutes at an average of power of 431 watts, and left everyone in his dust after 30 minutes at an average power of 401 watts.
  • Spending 13.2% of his time or 43 minutes coasting like a rocket on the descents and another 60% between 4 to 7 watts per kilogram of body weight (aka, the pain cave).
  • Holding onto 373 watts over the Col de Joux-Plane.
  • Hitting a max speed of 83.7 km/hr (51.9 mph) and flying like a Phoenix on his way to the most incredible moment in sports I have ever witnessed.

Allen Lim

What Floyd Landis did today was the sporting equivalent of lifting a wrecked car off of a loved one. And he did for hours on end, in front of a worldwide audience of millions.

Everyone could see the anger coursing through Landis at the finish. He didn’t smile, he didn’t cry, he raged. He tossed his bike to a helper and barked some orders. If someone had thrust a bunny into his arms Landis probably would have devoured it alive.

The incredible thing is that Landis sustained that force of will through the better part of five hours of racing. We are used to seeing sprinters with their killer face on, in the last meters of a race. Or opportunists like Erik Dekker in 2000; winning three stages, each in a different manner, but always with that rage. It was a state of mind the old Norse called “berserkr” that gave Floyd Landis the edge. The rage that comes from battle frenzy, when you know you have to win.

— Writer Craig Cook

“It wouldn’t be any fun if I told you what was going to happen next.”Floyd Landis


It would not be fair if I told you what happens next-Floyd Landis
AFP Photo as seen on

There’s a local band with the name Olympic Ass-Kicking Team, which for some reason never ceases to make me chuckle when I see it in print. I think the band needs to transfer the rights to their name to a certain Floyd Landis.

I was all set to witness Oscar Pereiro do his best Roger Walkowiak impression, and then Floyd Landis went berserk…And not just mildly, but a full fledged episode of “Circus Berserk-us”.

I’m sure every cycling publication on the planet - whether it’s print, online, video, blog, whatever - has weighed in on what went down July 20, 2006 in the Tour de France. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it in my lifetime. Sure, I remember hearing about Greg Lemond’s miracle 1989 TT while I was riding in a dizzying amount of circles during the final stage of Superweek (Fond du Lac? Manitowoc? I can’t recall), I remember seeing Claudio Chiappucci’s 1992 ride into Sestriere in the 1992 TdF, I remember watching Alexi Grewal inexplicably outsprint Steve Bauer in the 1984 L.A. Olympics, but I don’t think anything can compare to what Floyd Landis did today in the Tour de France. After Miguel Martin Perdiguero set him up with a killer leadout (and then quit the Tour) at the base of the day’s first climb, the Col des Saisies, Landis rode the 125 km TT of his life. His whole team was left for dead, all finishing 52+ minutes behind. Absolutely unbelievable.

So here’s what needs to happen…

1. I need to hop on a plane to Paris, buy about a gallon of Duvel, and douse Mr. Landis when he crosses the finish line on Sunday resplendent in yellow.

2. July 20th will forever be known as “Floyd Landis Ass-Kicking Day”.

3. The United States will annex the 200.5 km of road between Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and Morzine and post plaques every kilometer with the play by play from in print for everyone to read.

4. Floyd needs to ride a wheelie from the flame rouge to the finish line.

5. Hopefully he can avoid this until after the finish line.

6. The bum hip of Floyd Landis could fetch 7 figures on eBay, should he be so inclined. Or maybe he could auction off rice granule-sized pieces like the parquet floor of the legendary Boston Garden.

Bizarro le Tour-o

I’m still alive. And dumbstruck by this year’s TdF soap opera shennanigans. And reading books about Basque history, re-reading Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride (after last plowing through it about 16 years ago), and reading about 100 pages of Paul Kimmage journalism from the past decade. But more on that in the near future…

Well, there’s always Superweek. I still think Vinokourov and Kashechkin should have rolled up to the prologue start house in their TT gear, with a couple of burly Kazakh soigneurs/hired-goons in tow, and made the UCI officials/ASO staff blow a gasket. Why not let them ride? They’ve got a bus, some bikes, some fitness, and nothing else to do in July–the minimum riders on the roster rule was just a cop-out to keep Astana-Wurth out of the race. I think Tour teams have finished in Paris with 2 riders, why not let Astana-Wurth separate the wheat from the chaff from the get-go and start their Kazakh giant slayers.

Things you don’t see everyday. Take a look at this photo. Take a long look. The orange-clad speed demon front-and-center is none other than Basque Inaki Isasi. The only thing perhaps more bizarro than a Euskaltel-Euskadi rider mixing it up with Boonen and Freire would be watching Magnus Backstedt and Pavel Padrnos sprinting it out for first atop L’Alpe-d’Huez.

“Serguei Gonchar? There’s a Mr. Vinokourov on the phone…” Any bets on whether T-Mobile implodes when the roads head skyward? We’re going to see a team split in half, just like the 1987 Carrera squad in the Giro, or the 1986 La Vie Claire squad in the Tour. T-Mobile has 3 Germans, 2 Italians, 1 Ukrainian, and 1 Australian. The Germans will stick together, the Italians and honorary Italian Gonchar will stick together, and Rogers is just screwed and will be riding by himself. I’m sure Gonchar is all too aware of what happens when non-Germans on T-Mobile try to “assert their author-i-ta” in le Tour.

Redneck Kryptonite. Just in case you didn’t already think Floyd Landis is the hardest man on the planet, here’s a choice Landis factoid from a July 3rd ESPN: The Magazine feature article:

“When Landis–who spends much of the racing season in Spain–churns out 100-mile (or more) training rides through the mountains near his home in Murrieta, Calif., he’s accompanied by his wife’s 18-year old brother, Max Basile. Max follows in a small SUV, and next to him sit the tools of his trade: a can of Mace and a stun gun. These are meant to protect Landis in case someone on these back roads, maybe a redneck type with spandex issues, messes with him. But wouldn’t just one weapon of mass deterrence suffice? ‘No,’ Landis says, as if the idea borders on blasphemy. ‘We need ‘em both. That way we can blind ‘em before we shock ‘em’.

The Curse lives! I’ve discussed the Performance Cover Curse not too long ago, and it seems that Bobby Julich is still unable to shake loose from its insidious grasp. Of course, from the comfort of my living room, it’s all too easy to second guess what went down in the TT (in addition to Julich himself), but here goes:

(1) Bobby, do you remember 1989? When you were the junior national cyclocross champion? You should have conjured up your best Todd Wells skills and bunny-hopped that pesky roundabout curb ensuring a guaranteed place in TdF lore and legend.


(2) You should have flipped over onto your back and put that 5-gallon Camelbak(barely visible) under your skinsuit to use as a curb cushion. This move would likely not garner as much street cred as option #1, but you wouldn’t be in the hospital and have to placate a crying daughter.

No more race radios. Except for a gutsy move by Sylvain Calzati (whose victory may have been more indicative of age-old peloton payola), all of the Tour stages have been too formulaic. Break goes. Break gets 7 minutes. Break gets caught at 5km to go. I think if riders had to do more thinking about who’s up the road, and be a bit more attentive to what’s going on of their own devices, there’d be more drama on the open road. And all that talk about “Well, it helps the riders’ safety so they’ll know about road hazards” is quite simply a crock. Just look at how many riders hit the deck in this edition of the Tour alone from coming face-to-face with potholes and shoddy paving (talk to Erik Dekker, Chris Horner, or Fred Rodriguez for starters).

Giovanni Lombardi. Unfortunately, with the latest revelations from the Landis camp, Lombardi’s “Hardest Man in Cycling” moniker may not be entirely his alone. But who cares. Lombardi is riding his 5th consecutive Grand Tour and doing the work of a small army on his own. Says Chris Horner, “Discovery had five guys protecting Armstrong, but Lombardi does it by himself for Basso” (ed.-and now Sastre). Just look at the stage finishes most days so far. Lombardi is usually only a couple of places in front of Sastre, usually rolling in just behind the sprinting frenzy in about 30th-40th. And Lombardi out TTed a hapless Levi Leipheimer:

92. Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Team CSC @5.55.78

96. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner @6.05.46

Ouch. Beaten by a man who treated that stage as a rest day.